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Marty McLaren


Long-time resident, Marty McLaren, looks out the window of her home at PRCA. McLaren passed away in 2021 at the age of 76 from cancer. (Photo/PRCA)

Cohousing community comes together to create affordable homeownership in West Seattle

Homestead invita a los voluntarios de la comunidad a una variedad de experiencias de grupos de trabajo, programadas a medida que surgen las necesidades del proyecto. Eliminar especies de plantas invasoras de los espacios comunitarios, pintar murales, establecer jardines comunitarios, rehabilitar hogares, apoyar recorridos por el hogar para solicitantes calificados, ayudar con reparaciones menores del hogar o mantenimiento para hogares de bajos ingresos.

Los eventos de voluntariado se programan según sea necesario. Si desea ser contactado acerca de grupos de trabajo y esfuerzos de voluntariado relacionados, envíe un correo electrónico agetinvolved@homesteadclt.orgcon la línea de asunto: Me gustaría ser voluntario.

“Marty has throughout her life a long history of social justice activism, so her interest in having a land trust [home] at cohousing goes way, way back in her life,” said Domash.

PRCA on a sunny day

One of the beautiful pathways at Puget Ridge Cohousing on a sunny day. (Photo/Gurjot Kang)

From movie nights at the Common House to shared meals prepared with the community garden’s latest harvest, PRCA is held together through the efforts of the whole. Residents all pitch in to help with annual work parties, monthly general meetings, and plenty of committees tackling areas ranging from finance to meals to landscaping.

And now, almost three decades since this Cohousing community was built, one of the 23 homes on the property will become permanently affordable through a unique partnership with Homestead Community Land Trust. To understand how this partnership came to be, we must meet long-time PRCA resident Marty McLaren, who passed away in 2021.

Known for her lively, fun-loving nature, Marty McLaren loved to dance. She loved to do Tai chi outside every morning. A mother, grandmother – she was a devoted educator and passionate community advocate. McLaren cared deeply about the issue of affordable housing and strongly valued the relationships she developed at Puget Ridge Cohousing. Back in 1994, when McLaren first moved into the neighborhood, many of the PRCA homes were affordable to those at 80 percent Area Median Income (AMI).

“Now our units are expensive places to live where in the beginning they were more affordable,” commented Diane Hetrick. Hetrick, who has lived at PRCA for 16 years, moved in back in 2007 with partner Denis Martynowych.

Hetrick is on the Land Trust Task Force, a committee formed by Paul Fischburg, one of the original founders of PRCA.

Back in the early ‘90s, Fischburg, alongside wife Barbara Erwine, led the Sunday night meetings that began the process of buying and envisioning the land necessary to bring Puget Ridge Cohousing to life.


For McLaren, closing the wealth gap and providing equitable opportunities for people of all backgrounds to become first-time homeowners was of utmost importance.

Michele Domash, another long-time PRCA resident, lived near McLaren as both neighbor and friend for nearly 27 years. Domash lives at PRCA with husband Tom Phillips — one of the original members of Puget Ridge Cohousing. She fondly remembers McLaren’s resolute attitude and unwavering commitment towards equity and inclusion.

In March 2021, amid her ongoing battle with cancer, McLaren learned she didn’t have long to live. With time running out on her goal to establish affordable housing at Puget Ridge, she enlisted the help of Paul Fischburg to see it through.

Fischburg’s 25 years of experience working in affordable housing and community development made him the perfect point of contact to accomplish her goal.

Photo of the PRCA community from years prior. Diane Hetrick points at McLaren smiling in the center of the crowd. (Photo/Gurjot Kang)

PRCA group photo

Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association; a non-profit dedicated to social, racial and environmental justice through their programs focused on youth arts and education, affordable housing, and wetland restoration.

“Marty always had an interest in affordable housing,” said Fischburg. “Considering all the possibilities, it really felt like Homestead was just a perfect match for the cohousing model.”

In addition to the planning work with Homestead, the Task Force met more than 40 times to sort out the logistics of what it meant to bring a home into trust with Homestead.

“From the beginning, we had to, ourselves, learn what Homestead is, what a land-trusted unit is, and then we had to teach the community what it is,” said Scott McClay, another Task Force member and PRCA resident of 14 years. “So, there was a lot of initial education, and then the Task Force brought the proposal to the community.”

“These are all people who live in the community and who really wanted us to see this idea through,” said Fischburg, reflecting on the work of the Task Force. “There was really quite a bit of enthusiasm in the community for the idea of creating a permanently affordable housing unit here at Puget Ridge.”

Scott, Diane, and Denis at PRCA

From left to right, Scott McClay, Diane Hetrick, and Denis Martynowych sit out on the porch at PRCA. (Photo/Gurjot Kang)

For newer residents like Max Drewes, who moved into Puget Ridge Cohousing around two years ago, the chance to serve on the Land Trust Task Force was an important way to get involved in the community.

“I think the [community] land trust model is something that is really exciting to me,” said Drewes. “Increasing the access to make it so more people can get their foot in the door and build equity is super, super important. Something that I think we as homeowners need to be very aware [of is] that we are in this super privileged class, and we need to be responsible about that and help one another.”

Through this partnership with Homestead CLT, the cost of the home will be subsidized to a more affordable amount for first-time, income-qualified homebuyers currently priced out of the Seattle housing market. (To learn more about how the community land trust model works, visit

Alongside the gift from the McLaren estate, the PRCA community and friends of Marty rallied to raise additional gifts totaling over $45,000 to further bring down the price of the community land trust home.

“This is an extraordinary outcome of the desire to honor Marty’s memory by fulfilling the values for affordability, equity and inclusion that she championed during her life,” said Homestead CEO Kathleen Hosfeld.

PRCA dinner with residents

PRCA residents gather together to share a meal outside by the pizza oven. Drewes is pictured second from the right. (Photo/PRCA)

“[Marty] was a cancer survivor…three times…she was aware that her time was limited and she kept the vision she had put into the world,” said PRCA resident Tom Phillips. “She inspired the rest of us to contribute money to bring the price down even further…so the whole community is involved now in a way that we never were before.”

“Her vision was social equity through education and housing,” affirmed Domash, who noted that cohousing prices are generally not affordable to first-time homebuyers.

Now, thanks to McLaren and those who loved her, a home in this special cohousing community will be within reach of an income-qualified household.

“I think of her as someone who really embodied gratitude,” said Hetrick. “She really embraced any kindness that was offered to her.”

As Marty’s life was coming to a close, the community gathered together at a nearby college to dance as she often did. Today, they are carrying her values and legacy forward in making homeownership possible for a household in Homestead’s program.


Marty McLaren sitting outdoors with another PRCA resident

Homestead has already closed applications to purchase the home and completed the buyer selection process. For the new homeowners set to move into the community land trust unit, the sense of belonging they will find at PRCA is unique.

Hetrick’s advice to the new homeowners: “Just breathe, take your time. You're welcome here. This is your home.”

Marty McLaren (on the right) socializing with PRCA member, Zoe Darling, out on a rainy day. (Photo/PRCA)

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